To the extent that it is still possible, it is imperative that Burma’s Sunday general election must be free and fair in every respect.
In less than 24 hours, more than 30 million voters across the country will cast votes that, they hope, will help bring change to their lives and to the country after more than five decades of authoritarian rule.
If it is free and fair, it is widely believed that the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, will win the highest number of seats.
Should this be the case, it will not only be a victory for the NLD but a genuine opportunity for what Suu Kyi has termed a government of “national reconciliation”—a sorely overdue rapprochement between the political leaders, the military, and the diverse ethnic communities of Burma.
Countless people have been killed, countless others have suffered. For every son and daughter of this country, the weight of each tragedy and each missed opportunity of the last half a century is overwhelming. Now is the time to consign that sorry legacy to the scrapheap of history, and to take the first tentative, halting steps towards a new era and a new beginning.
The people of Burma are haunted by the military’s failure to recognize the NLD’s landslide victory in the 1990 election, and remain fearful that the military will not honor Sunday’s results.
The three men who have the power to soothe these fears are President Thein Sein, military chief Min Aung Hlaing, and Union Election Commission chair Tin Aye. All three have given repeated promises that the elections will be free, fair and respected.
In his election speech Friday, President Thein Sein reiterated this promise once again, reassuring listeners that the government and the military would “honor the outcome of this free and fair election.”
Should he keep his word, his name will surely be honored in the history books in the years to come. So thank you, Mr President. Keep your promise, and let the people of Burma have the change for which they yearn.